Finding her why

Posted on 02/10/2017 Student Profiles


Joan Corbett, AUT Nursing Student, Programme W&AT!

Third year nursing student Joan Corbett says initiatives such as Programme W&AT! and the Health Science Academy are a welcome push for Pacific students pursuing a career in health. With a passion for the community Joan is on the path to becoming a community nurse.

Although in the last leg of her nursing degree, Joan says her road hasn’t been straightforward or easy. But she credits Programme W&AT! for the mentoring and assistance that has enabled her to persevere towards her goal.

Like her mother who came to New Zealand from Kolovai in Tonga during the 1970s, Joan has put in the hard yards to get to where she is now for the sake of her son.

Throughout her own schooling she never considered health as a career option.

“I hadn’t really thought about it, and health wasn’t promoted at high school as a career”, says Joan, whose family grew up in Mangere Bridge, while she attended Onehunga High. But her Palagi dad suggested nursing, as did her Nan, so it was always in the back of her mind.

When she finished high school Joan took a gap year, going to England to work at a camp as an outdoor education instructor. Being fit and keen on sports, it was the perfect OE job.

“I loved it and being able to talk kids through things like climbing up towers gave me a boost, too,” she says

She found she liked working with children, and kept that in mind when she returned to New Zealand and enrolled into nursing at AUT.

Initially, however, she found it difficult to adjust.

“I was still a teenager, at 19, and still preoccupied with partying, so even though I was interested in it, I fell off.”

Joan theorised it was because she had no real reason to pursue it at the time, “I felt as though I didn’t have a ‘why?’”

She left university and got a job at Family Life Education Pasefika (FLEP), now operating under Village Collective.

The charitable trust was set up to equip Pacific youth, families and communities with relevant knowledge, resources and information relating to sexual health and wellbeing.

“We went to schools mainly in south Auckland to teach kids about puberty and sexual health, it was aimed at youth.”

The programme was based around art, music and relationships, sparking her career interest again, this time in community.

Soon after leaving FLEP, she fell pregnant with her son, whose father was living in Australia, so she moved and stayed there for a few years.

But in the back of her mind, the need to return and resume her studies persisted.

“I remember coming back and not enrolling into uni straight away. I then realised that as a single Mum at age 24, which isn’t that young, I hadn’t achieved what I’d wanted to and needed to get my life sorted.”

For Joan, raising her now almost five-year-old son while attending university, has been one of the hardest things she’s ever done.

Despite a few hiccups, a failed paper and the ongoing stresses of managing her studies and her son, she’s almost there, thanks to the help of student support like Programme W&AT!

Joan says having a career as a community nurse was a huge help, as was knowing her ‘why’.

There were times when she wondered if the early morning day-care drop-offs and late pickups, as well as hardly getting to spend any time with her son, were worth it.

She reminds herself that not only does she want to achieve for him, she wants to set an example.

“My son’s my drive … I don’t want to give up,” she says.

“We’ve been on this journey together.”

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